UN calls on North Korea to close political prison camps
'Ultimately, of course, I call for the dismantlement of these facilities'
A United Nations human rights expert urged North Korea to free the tens of thousands of dissident detainees who are believed to be held captive in the state’s political prison camps.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the special UN rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, spoke at a news briefing on the matter on Monday and cautioned that the issue could be systemic.
“I have heard accounts that… the system, the political regime in North Korea, would not survive without the existence of political prison camps,” Ojea Quintana warned.
“I really urge the leadership to continue to release prisoners - especially those [who are] most vulnerable - and ultimately, of course, I call for the dismantlement of these facilities.”
Pyongyang disputes the existence of such prison camps.
North Korea has also claimed in the past that criticisms of its rights record are part of a hostile policy campaign waged against Pyongyang by the West.
“Authorities in North Korea need to know they have to respond sooner or later for crimes being committed,” Ojea Quintana urged.
“In some political prisoner camps the prisons are being used for forced labor in coal mines and other kinds of mines,” he added.
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While presenting his report to the UN Human Rights Council, the official also called on world powers to pressure Pyongyang on its abuses.
“The international community must step up to the challenge of reviving engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to address serious human rights violations,” he said.